The bluegrass music world was abuzz this time last year with excitement about a new group that emerged from east Tennessee. After a couple of simple home movie style videos were released, we all became smitten with their authentic and traditional bluegrass sound, and their vocal pyrotechnics. They seemed perfect representatives for the young face of bluegrass.
That the group was formed by one of the more dashing bluegrass power couples of our day didn’t hurt them a bit. Canadian fiddle maestro Aynsley Porchak, now plying her trade in the lower 48, and her beau, banjo whiz Lincoln Hensley, are not only dedicated and highly skilled professional musicians, their deep knowledge of the genre at a fairly tender age is distinctly impressive, learned at the hands of true masters of the trade. Aynsley found her spot under the wing of Dan Boner while a student at ETSU, and Lincoln was a protege of the great Sonny Osborne near the end of his life.
These two added veteran mandolinist Tim Laughlin, and enlisted fellow rising bluegrass star John Meador on guitar, and his wife, Gracie, on bass. They were quickly signed to Billy Blue Records and started wok on a debut album when two unexpected, but closely related, events occurred. Gracie became pregnant with their first child, and John jumped to perform with Authentic Unlimited, suspecting that more immediate work would be available there for a new father with a family to support.
This left Aynsley, Lincoln, and Tim in a quandary, trying to replace band members in the middle of recording. But while Meador was a big loss, Tennessee Bluegrass Band ended up getting double value by bringing in Lincoln Mash on guitar, and Tyler Griffith on bass. Both are very talented vocalists, Tyler primarily singing tenor, and Lincoln lead.
Mash is a superb bluegrass singer, just developing into his potential, as you’ll hear on the new single released today. His upper range calls to mind the great Elrod, Terry Eldridge, formerly of The Grascals, The Osborne Brothers, and many other fine groups. And at the low end there is a bit of a Sparks growl. Pretty good company!
For the past few years he has been part of the Coal Creek Mountain Boys, touring all over the US.
Griffith is an Indiana native who has worked with a good many acts, including Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper, King Springs Road, the Harvest Road Band, and Bridgewater. His tenor voice gives TBB a strong vocal trio.
Their new single is a Tom T Hall song, Tall Weeds and Rust, which tells a sad but familiar tale of breaking up a family farm after the surviving siblings have moved to the city. It was never a hit for Tom T, though it has been heard in bluegrass before.
Hensley says that the song really hit home for him.
“When we were pitched this song, I listened through the first time and knew right then it would be on our first album. Hearing the demo of Tom T. singing those lines painted the picture in my mind that you see here in the video. My Grandpa, Don Hensley, had just passed away this past year, and this song told the story of what almost happened to his farm after his passing…cleared, flattened, ‘cleaned up.’ Truth be told, that’s what’s happening to a lot of the small-town farmers’ land after they pass. Their kids/grandkids inherit it, and they have no interest in farming, so it gets sold and turned into housing, shopping centers, or parking lots. Thank God it didn’t happen to my grandfather’s farm, and I’ve been able to keep it as he left it. Do me a favor and drive around your hometown and listen to this song, and I think you’ll realize how many of those old farms we’ve lost in the past 25 years. Tom T really said it better than I can…
‘Progress, oh progress, move on if you must, but save me that small patch of tall weeds and rust.'”
And Aynsley says that it has been popular when thy play live, even before the album was released.
“Tall Weeds and Rust was a song that had immediate emotional impact on us as a band. All of us either are farmers or are closely related to them, and we’ve seen the song’s storyline play out in our daily lives. We didn’t expect it when we recorded it, but it turns out that this song seems to have truly blessed our fans. Whenever we play this song live, I make it a point to look out into the audience and watch the emotion come over their faces. Every time I see tears spring to someone’s eyes, I know that this song means something to them, and after all, touching people with our music makes it all worthwhile to us.”
An accompanying music video hit today, so have a look and a listen and see why Tennessee Bluegrass Band is making such a splash jut one year after they were formed.
Their debut album, The Future of the Past, is available now from popular download and streaming services online. Radio programmers can get the tracks at AirPlay Direct.